Client Communication

5 Reasons Potential Clients Are Ghosting You

Photo by    Cameron Clark

Photo by Cameron Clark

No one likes being ghosted, and it can be extremely frustrating when you’ve done all you can to communicate with a potential client only to hear crickets. The most common reaction to ghosting in the wedding industry is to assume it’s all about cost and to lower your prices. While it sometimes is about money, there are other reasons that cause people to avoid telling you no:

1. You’re sending your pricing right away.

Sticker shock is real, and if you’re one of the wedding pros they’re considering at the beginning of their planning process (namely planners, venues, or photographers), it is likely that the budget they have in their mind is not based in reality whatsoever.

People hear that the average wedding in the US is around $30k, they watch the “reality” wedding TV shows that display costs on the bottom of the screen without noting which items or services were comped or discounted by the vendors in exchange for publicity, they find creative inspiration on wedding blogs and magazines and don’t know that they will have to pay triple to make that design happen because they are getting married in a union town, and when they ask their friend what they spent on a given item, the friend feels uncomfortable sharing real numbers, so they tell a little white lie to seem smart and like they got a deal.

Your potential clients likely don’t know what real weddings cost because they have never gotten married before. Your primary role at this point in the process is to educate them in a way that shows your value.

Also, if you are sending prices right away, you’re not educating yourself on what their wedding will actually require from you. On top of that, you’re branding yourself as cookie cutter because you’re essentially saying “we only do these types of weddings, so we know how much to charge without talking to you.” Lose-lose.

If you’re still sending pricing right away, make 2019 the year you break this bad business habit.

2. You’re sending too much info too soon.

I’ve spent years doing research on how couples and their families truly approach their wedding spending and as a result developed WedType, a scientifically-based wedding buyer behavior model. Of the four types of wedding consumers (Seekers, Drivers, Researchers, and Lovers), Researchers are the ones who will read everything. For them, when it comes to information, more is better. For the other three types, more is too much.

While you won’t know right off the bat which WedType you’re dealing with, if you’re sending every possible piece of information, if you’re counting on people to read through all of your website and move on the exact right path through your marketing funnel, if you’re asking them to take a quiz or fill out a multi-page questionnaire before you even talk to them, you will overwhelm the majority of your potential clients.

When people feel overwhelmed, they subconsciously associate that feeling with you and your brand. This means that they may love your work but, for some reason they can’t quite put their finger on, feel like you would be burdensome/tiring/a drag to work with.

3. You’re being a little TOO efficient.

No one likes to feel like a number. No one likes to feel like a checkmark on your to-do list. And no one wants to feel like their wedding is one of 2.2 million a year and therefore not all that unique.

Automated replies have their place, but you probably don’t need to use them. Here’s some tough love: automated and canned replies may help you feel more organized and efficient behind the scenes, but they make you look cold and uncaring.

I’m willing to bet that when you wrote out your core values and mission statement for your business and marketing plans, “cold” and “uncaring” were not traits you included as wanting to be known as.

If you’re in the luxury space, this is especially true. High end means high touch. You get to charge more because you have to hold their hand through more of the process.

People almost always hire the person who makes them feel the best from the very beginning of the process. Be the person who’s willing to sacrifice a little bit of efficiency in order to make people feel truly valued, heard, and connected.

4. You’re not scheduling a followup BEFORE you send the proposal.

If you want to close the sale faster, or get to a firm “yes” or “no” answer more quickly, schedule a 10 minute call for a couple days after you send the proposal to discuss it and answer any questions they may have.

This is a decades-old tactic that is used by sales people all over the world because it works. Here’s a very simplified example of how it goes:

Monday AM: You receive an inquiry via your website. Yay! You reply right away that you’d love to chat for 10 minutes to learn more about them and their wedding.

Monday PM: They’re available for a call after they get off work, so at 6 pm their time, you have a quick call. Towards the end, you say, “Congratulations again! I love your ideas! I’m going to send you a customized proposal by Wednesday. I want you to take a day or so to bounce it off your friends and family and get their feedback, then on Friday I’d love to chat with you to go over it and answer any questions you may have. What time works best for you this Friday for a quick 10 minute call?”

Wednesday: Send the proposal with a reminder to bounce it off their friends and family.

Friday: On your 10 minute call answer any questions they may have. Sell your value as you go through it.

The idea that if people want you they will find a way to pay for it is true to a point. Money doesn’t grow on trees and you may just be flat out of their budget even if they decide to scale back in other areas. If this is the case, tell them that you understand (because you do, because you also do not have an unlimited bank account), and that you’d love to refer them to some wedding pros who may be more in line with their budget. While you may not get the sale, you’re raising the bar for the industry by referring them to talented people rather than charlatans who are only good at Instagram.

You’ll want to tell them 10 minutes for these first phone calls because it is too early in the process for them to feel comfortable committing to a longer period of time. Typically once they’re on the phone, they’ll want to speak longer, but showing them up front that you are respectful of their time and schedule is important.

A quick note on telling them to bounce it off their family and friends: millennials and Gen Z grew up making decisions in groups thanks to a change in the educational system in the 1980’s. Giving them space to solicit feedback from people they trust allows them to feel more comfortable with you and not pressured to make a decision they may end up regretting. Their putting a priority on their college roommate’s opinion may feel like a slap in the face to you, the actual expert, but building trust with your potential client is the most important factor here.

5. No one likes being the bearer of bad news.

Everyone is human and no one wants the icky feeling that comes with letting someone else down. Even if you have an “it’s just business” mindset, your potential clients may still feel terrible telling you they’re going with someone else. Add to this the fact that they may have interviewed a dozen other wedding professionals in your category and it’s easy to understand how telling a dozen people “no” could put a huge damper on their day.

One way to combat this is to tell them that if you’re not the right fit, you’re happy to recommend someone else who may be better suited for them. This shows that you genuinely care about them having the best wedding, even if they don’t end up booking you. Generosity wins.

Ghosting is not a new phenomenon. All ages do it, and blaming it just on millennials or Gen Z is lazy thinking and a way to avoid doing the work of examining where you could be running your business better.

The Number 1 Thing to Remove From Your Website's Inquiry Form (and Why)

The point of your website isn't to close the sale, it's to get potential clients to contact you so you can start a conversation.

The number one thing on most wedding professionals' inquiry forms that can shut down a conversation? Asking for a specific wedding date. 

This seems counterintuitive at first – after all if you aren't available for their date, you aren't available. That said, asking for the date up front cheats both you and the bride or groom out of a conversation that can leave a memorable impression and increase your word of mouth.

First, depending on your segment of the industry, a potential client may have a few dates in mind. Their decision could depend on when their dream venue or the photographer they've been Insta-stalking for the past year has availability. If the date they enter to get past a mandatory field on your inquiry form triggers an automated "Sorry, we're booked" email reply, you've lost out on the possibility that the date they land on is actually one you have available.

Second, and most importantly, not skipping past that conversation means you have the opportunity to make the wedding industry better. 

One of my non-negotiable company values is to always provide a referral if I can't accept a project. This can be because I'm already booked, I'm out of their budget, their project isn't in my wheelhouse, or we just may not be a good fit for whatever reason. Giving them the name of someone who may be able to better help them reach their goals is not only beneficial to them and brands me as helpful, it allows me to support the other people in the business consulting space who are the real deal. 

The importance of that last part shouldn't be underestimated. Wedding pros in every single segment of the industry complain about oversaturation. Planners joke that "anyone who walks by a wedding at a resort" opens up shop the next day, photographers complain about people with an iPhone and VSCO calling themselves pros, and caterers complain that "anyone with a kitchen and the Food Network thinks they can do what we do." Some of the new people entering the industry are truly talented. Others are . . . not.

The truth of the matter is that if you are competing at the level you want to be at, most of your competitors will also be excellent at what they do. Bad apples end up affecting everyone, and the best way to ensure that the good people stay in business is to send them business. 

Have a list of names of people you trust and respect, including competitors in your category as well as those who may be at a lower price point but still good at what they do. You can send an actual PDF list or link, but I'd recommend taking a couple minutes to send a personalized recommendation:

"Hi Sally, Your wedding ideas sound beautiful! We are previously committed for your date, but based on what you've shared with me, I'd recommend reaching out to Ann at XYZ Events. Her style is very much in sync with yours, plus I think you'll hit it off. Congratulations, again!"

A 90 second email that helps the couple, brands you as generous to both the client and the wedding pro, and earns you karma/reaping what you sow/what goes around comes around brownie points.

This particular couple may not have the budget for you, but "I couldn't afford him, but he still took the time to help me with recommendations" is great word of mouth and a kindness people remember. It also helps build a wedding community committed to excellence and weeding out the charlatans. A win-win for everyone.

The One Area You Should Be Less Efficient In, Starting Today

"The people at the very top don't work just harder or even much harder than everyone else. They work muchmuch harder.” – Malcolm Gladwell


The one thing that almost every wedding professional can do to immediately improve their customer service and brand positioning?

Stop sending automated email replies.

This is especially true if you work in the luxury market. 

High-end means high touch. The saying, “Work smarter not harder” is well-intentioned, but the fact of the matter is that if you want to command a higher fee for your services, you will need to work both smarter and harder. If you want to position yourself as a high-end brand that understands the nuances of the luxury client, you have to put in the actual effort. You have to actually “touch.” 

Here’s some tough love: automated and canned replies may help you feel more organized and efficient behind the scenes, but they make you look cold and uncaring. 

I’m willing to bet that when you wrote out your core values and mission statement for your business and marketing plans, “cold” and “uncaring” were not traits you included as wanting to be known as. 

Yet thousands of wedding professionals are actively branding themselves as such in the name of efficiency. 

The first name mail merge and seemingly personalized, “Hi, how are you?” greetings don’t fool anyone. Nobody likes receiving automated emails. They’re like receiving unsigned holiday cards in that they convey to the recipient that they are nothing more than a checkmark you need to tick on your to-do list, and not someone you actually care about. 

Tighten corners elsewhere in your business. When it comes to client communication, it is much better to do things the long, hard, stupid way. 

Your advantage is that most of your competitors will read this, roll their eyes, and continue to automate everything. Let them. Focus on yourself and your own company and step up your game.

People almost always hire the person who makes them feel the best from the very beginning of the process. Be the person who’s willing to sacrifice a little bit of efficiency in order to make people feel truly valued, heard, and connected.
 


PS: Since telling people that you'll reply to them within 48 hours is seen by most potential brides and grooms as too long to wait, you can use tools like IFTTT or Zapier to send you a push notification or text message when you get a new inquiry. This way you or a team member can reply quickly while still maintaining whichever boundaries you’ve set around the rest of your inbox.